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Nawaz refuses to leave as govt asks for billions

ISLAMABAD: Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif got annoyed over the demand of the government to deposit surety bonds and refused to go abroad to get medical treatment for his critical ailments, sources told The News here Tuesday.

The federal cabinet Tuesday approved the removal of Nawaz Sharif’s name from the Exit Control List (ECL) if he agrees to sign surety bonds equivalent to the amount of penalty imposed by an accountability court. The accountability court in December last year convicted Nawaz in the Al-Azizia corruption reference and awarded him a seven-year imprisonment and imposed a fine of Rs1.5 billion and $25 million (Rs3.88 billion).

Later at night, the cabinet’s subcommittee reserved its verdict on whether Nawaz Sharif’s name will be taken out from the no-fly list or not. The subcommittee will announce its decision on Wednesday (today).

The federal cabinet will make the final decision. The subcommittee will only give recommendations to the cabinet, said Farogh Naseem while speaking to Geo News.

“Nawaz Sharif is critical and the reports we saw, they had ‘issues’ in them,” he said. Naseem said that it was Nawaz’s choice whether he wanted to go abroad or not. He said that he could not comment on what advice the former prime minister had been given or what decision he would take regarding the issue.

“We have deposited security bonds at the court, will not provide any further bonds,” said PML-N leader Ata Tarar.

“The PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif held meeting with Nawaz Sharif for one-and-a-half hour at Jati Umra and convinced him that his deteriorating health condition never allowed him to remain in Pakistan,” the sources said. The Sharif family thought it advisable not to sign any document that had no legal status because this kind of arrangement could only be done by the court.

The sources said Attaullah Tarar, who attended couple of meetings of the sub-committee of the federal cabinet in the day time, provided details to Shahbaz Sharif and PML-N Vice-President Maryam Nawaz about demand of the government to deposit surety bonds.

“Shahbaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz, Barrister Munawar Iqbal and Attaullah Tarar discussed the issue in detail and also got opinion from other legal brains after which the Sharif family members decided that they would not sign any illegal document to seek removal of Nawaz’ name from ECL,” the sources said.

Legal experts also told the Sharif family that this kind of arrangement could be made with the court of law and there was no existing law according to which the government could allow anyone to go abroad by depositing money or surety bonds.

“When the NAB reviewed the total cost of the property of the Sharif family in Pakistan they came to know that it is less than even the fine imposed by the NAB court in the corruption cases against Nawaz Sharif,” the sources said.

The sources said the NAB then sought bank statements of Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif to get to know how much money they have in their bank accounts. The sources said Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Accountability Shahzad Akbar maintained that the Sharif family should deposit surety bonds worth Rs5.5 billion to get name of Nawaz Sharif removed from the ECL.

“Nawaz Sharif has deposited surety bonds of Rs20 million to the Lahore High Court (LHC), while surety bonds worth Rs4 million have also been deposited to the Islamabad High Court (IHC). But the Sharif family believes that submission of such bonds to the federal government for removing Nawaz’ name off ECL would holds no legal status,” the sources said.

According to sources, the ECL Ordinance does not have any provision allowing the federal government to get surety bonds for removing name of any person from the ECL. The sources said Attaullah Tarar also informed Shahbaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz that when the meeting of the sub-committee started on Tuesday morning, its members straightaway asked the NAB officials to give their written statement that they had no objection over removal of Nawaz’ name from ECL.

“The NAB officials hesitated to give their written statement and instead gave past references in which the federal government removed names of persons from ECL using its executive powers,” the sources said.

The sources said the NAB officials argued in the meeting that if any accused went abroad and he refused to come back then he did not come under the jurisdiction of the Pakistani courts so it became nearly impossible for them to bring him back to Pakistan.

Dr Adnan Khan, a personal physician of Nawaz Sharif, presented latest reports of Sharif Medical Complex in the meeting of the sub-committee and said the health of the former prime minister was fast deteriorating with each passing day.

The sources said the air tickets of Nawaz Sharif, Shahbaz Sharif and Dr Adnan Khan have so far not been confirmed and the Sharif family has also not given green signal to air ambulance to come to Pakistan.

Earlier in the day, the federal cabinet approved the removal of Nawaz Sharif’s name from the ECL provided he agrees to sign surety bonds that he would return after treatment from abroad.

The decision was taken in the cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan. He was granted bail by the Lahore High Court (LHC) on medical grounds, while the Islamabad High Court (IHC) suspended his seven-year jail-term for treatment. The doctors are of the view that Nawaz Sharif needs to be flown abroad for treatment as his condition remains perilous. The Sharif family has requested the Interior Ministry to remove Nawaz’s name from the ECL, so that he could be flown to London.

The cabinet conditionally approved the removal of Nawaz Sharif’s name from the ECL after Law Minister Farogh Naseem apprised the participants on a meeting of the cabinet’s sub-committee which he presided over earlier in the day. The Sharif family has to sign a surety bonds for the removal of Nawaz Sharif’s name from the ECL. And after the Sharif family lawyers would submit the surety bonds to the cabinet sub-committee, the Interior Ministry would strike his name off the no-fly list. After the cabinet’s nod, there is no need of the sub-committee’s approval for the removal of Nawaz’ name from the ECL.

Prime Minister’s Special Assistant (SAPM) on Information Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan told media after the cabinet meeting that about 85-90 per cent participants of the meeting were of the opinion that Nawaz Sharif should be allowed to go abroad for medical treatment provided that he meets certain conditions. She said some members of the cabinet opposed striking Nawaz’ name off the ECL, adding that the prime minister gave his opinion after hearing viewpoint of all members. The prime minister was of the opinion that Nawaz Sharif should go abroad for treatment.

Earlier in the day, the cabinet sub-committee meeting on the same issue concluded inconclusively after officials of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) opposed the removal of Nawaz’ name from the ECL. The law minister chaired the meeting in which it deliberated over the application of PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif seeking removal of Nawaz’ name from the ECL. The health secretary and head of the medical board treating Nawaz briefed the sub-committee over the former prime minister’s health condition. The sub-committee had also summoned the NAB officials to the meeting.

The Punjab government maintained in the meeting that the health of the former prime minister is worrying and he needs immediate treatment. The sub-committee asked Nawaz’ lawyers to give a date for the return of their client to Pakistan after his treatment abroad.

Speaking to the media after the meeting, the law minister said the issue of removing Nawaz’ name from the ECL was a bit complicated as neither the NAB officials nor Nawaz’ lawyers had submitted documents they were asked to bring to the meeting. A day earlier, the NAB had said the federal government was the “competent authority” to decide the matter of removal of the former prime minister’s name from the ECL, as the PML-N claimed that delay in this regard was “posing a threat” to the life of its supreme leader.

Nawaz, 70, agreed on Friday to go to abroad for his treatment, heeding doctors’ advice and ‘accepting’ his family’s request. He was scheduled to leave for London on Monday morning. However, his departure to the British capital was conditioned with his name’s removal from the no-fly list.

The cabinet affirmed that positive impacts of improvement in economic indicators will be passed on to public. Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan said Adviser on Finance Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh apprised the cabinet of improvement in economic indicators, the government’s policies leading to encouraging economic results and problems faced by common people and strategies to resolve them. He also informed the meeting about not only successfully achieving the targets, but also surpassing them in first quarter of this financial year in the areas of revenue collection, taxes, industrialisation, export-oriented strategy, foreign reserves, remittances, economic stability and inflation.

Abdul Hafeez Shaikh further informed the meeting that due to turnaround of economy, the ultimate beneficiaries will be people of Pakistan. The prime minister appreciated the improvement in economic indicators and performance of the economic team and directed to disseminate information to public regarding these positive impacts.

Dr Firdous said Pakistan’s economic policies have restored the confidence of international financial institutions including the IMF. The prime minister once again directed all provincial governments to expedite measures to control inflation and prices of essential items.

The performance of the provincial governments will be measured in how much reduction in prices their actions have brought so far. Dr Firdous said the prime minister directed to ensure that essential items are available at the network of Utility Stores Corporation of Pakistan, for which the Rs6 billion has been already released. She said the technology will be utilised to overcome corruption and performance issues in the USC.

The prime minister also gave directions to the cabinet that all cabinet members must take responsibility of the performance of their respective ministries. If there is any issue, it will be the responsibility of the respective minister. The ministers will take their decisions on fast track basis.

Dr Firdous said the cabinet was apprised of key projects under CPEC including ML-1, airport, and other infrastructure that were discussed in the recent JCC meeting with Chinese counterparts. She said the cabinet was informed that 1,594 Pakistani prisoners from Saudi Arabia and 345 from Malaysia have returned to the country after serving their sentences due to special efforts made by the prime minister.

The cabinet expressed displeasure over a news reports carried by a section of media regarding inquiry commission to probe debt accumulated by previous governments. Dr Firdous said the said report was based on wrong statistics and fabricated facts. She said the prime minister expressed displeasure over shortage and inflation of certain perishable food items. She said the prime minister directed to devise a mechanism in which there is advance knowledge of perishable food items that could face shortage.

The special assistant expressed hope that there will not be shortage of food items in future.

The cabinet also approved proposal of “Ehsaas Governance and Integrity Observatory” and “Ehsaas Governance and Integrity Policy”.

In a statement, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation Dr Sania Nishtar said the policy is binding on the Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety Division and its ancillary organisations. She said the policy is meant to address institutionalised corruption and collusion in social welfare organisations. The policy also outlines that within four years, Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety Division will strive to use blockchain technology to ensure data transparency.